Migraine 101

"For an indomitable spirit, the insurmountable is faced every day! We do not give up, we refuse to quit, we purposely hold onto hope. We are migraine warriors!"

~Shoshana Lipson

If you are new to our website, or new to life with migraine, let's start here with Migraine 101!
Migraine is a complex, neurological disease. Symptoms, attack triggers, severity, and response to treatments vary widely. Migraine is in the top ten most disabling diseases worldwide. Yet it is often misdiagnosed and undertreated. In addition, people who live with migraine are highly stigmatized.
At Migraine Meanderings, we help patients become informed and empowered. As we learn more about migraine, we can better partner with our doctors on treatment decisions. We can advocate for and receive better care. We can improve our quality of life and rediscover hope.

Headache Disorders

There are several different types of headache disorders.

Primary Headache Disorders (not a symptom of another condition)

  • Migraine
  • New Daily Persistent Headache
  • Tension Headaches
  • Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias (including cluster headache)

Secondary Headache Disorders (related to a different condition)

  • Sinus Headache
  • Post Traumatic Headache
  • Medication Overuse Headache
  • Cervicogenic Headache
  • Ice Pick Headaches

Many people have more than one type, and some types can be both secondary and primary! Because treatment options can be different, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor.

Types of Migraine

Migraine is classified into several different types depending on symptoms.

Aura (one or both)

  • Migraine with aura (aka. Classic Migraine)
  • Migraine without aura (aka. Common Migraine)

Frequency (either/or)

  • Episodic Migraine (0-14 days p/mth)
  • Chronic Migraine (>14 days p/mth)

Additional Types

  • Hemiplegic migraine
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Migraine with Brainstem Aura (aka. Basilar Migraine)
  • Migraine without Headache (aka. Silent Migraine)
  • Abdominal migraine
  • Retinal migraine
  • Status migrainosus

Migraine Symptoms

Migraine attack symptoms vary widely from person to person, and can change over time. In addition, the symptoms can vary depending on what stage of an attack you are in (prodrome, aura, attack, postdrome), or even in the interictal period between attacks. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • PRODROME: yawning, nausea, fatigue, high energy, food cravings, increased urination, irritability, brain fog, depression, constipation/diarrhea, mood changes, neck stiffness
  • AURA: visual, speech, smell,  taste, sensory changes, tinnitus
  • ATTACK: pain, sensitivity to light, sound and odors, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, speech and visual changes, allodynia, fatigue, cold, hot, depression, anxiety 
  • POSTDROME: brain fog, depression, fatigue, anxiety, euphoria
  • INTERICTAL emotional changes, fatigue, sensitivity to light, sound and odors, nausea, food cravings, anxiety, depression

Migraine Triggers

Migraine triggers are a complex subject, and can vary widely from person to person as well as over time. What makes them especially challenging is that what helps one person treat an attack may actually trigger an attack in someone else. As a result, there is no "ONE LIST" of things that every person should avoid, and each person may need to go through a lengthy process of evaluating what has the most impact for them.

Common Migraine Triggers:

  • Scents/odors of any kind (note: essential oils can trigger an attack in some people, but some of them can help treat an attack in others)
  • Bright light or flashing lights
  • Barometric pressure changes
  • Wind, humidity, cold, heat
  • Foods or caffeine (note: caffeine can trigger an attack in some people, but it can also help treat attacks in other people!)
  • Alcohol (note: most common is red wine)
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Poor or irregular sleep
  • Missed meals
  • Stress
  • Illness or surgery
  • Exercise (note: often a double-edged sword - regular exercise can help reduce migraine attacks but can also trigger attacks in some people)
  • Altitude change

Migraine Causes

It is important to note that there is a difference between what TRIGGERS a migraine attack and what CAUSES the disease. People often confuse the two,  partly because the disease (migraine - Singular), has the same name as the attacks, migraines. One way to clarify the difference is to use the terms, Migraine Disease and Migraine Attacks. 

Genetic Makeup

The actual cause of migraine is still not well understood, although scientists have isolated several genes that are involved in it. What we do know is that migraine disease is highly hereditary. When one parent has migraine there is a 50% chance any child will also have it; that risk increases to 75% when both parents have migraine. 

There is ongoing research into migraine, but funding is very limited compared to other disease spaces, and so everything we can do to help raise awareness is going to make a difference!

Treatment Options

Migraine is a complex, neurological disease that presents itself on a wide spectrum of frequency, severity, symptoms, attack triggers, and responses to treatments.

While currently there is no cure for migraine, there are multiple treatment options—none of which work for everyone, and many of which need to be tried for a few months to see if they are effective. This is a long process that requires patience, perseverance, and courage!

Often, people who live with migraine experience the most success managing their disease with a toolbox approach that combines different options. This involves a combination of preventive medications, abortive medications, medical devices, supplements, lifestyle changes, and alternative treatments.

Check out our Migraine Treatment Toolbox to see all the different ways to treat migraine and CLICK HERE to do a search for certified headache specialists near you.


  1. […] migraine day-to-day requires fixed effort, regardless of how lengthy you’ve lived with migraine illness. […]

  2. […] Migraine is a fancy neurological illness that impacts greater than 42 million individuals in the USA alone. Roughly 5 million individuals within the US have persistent migraine, which means they’ve 15 migraine/headache days a month or extra. Migraine illness is a lot greater than “only a headache.” […]

  3. […] the dads on the market. Particularly those that have migraine illness, are parenting a toddler with migraine illness, or perhaps […]

  4. […] to your relationship. Generally certainly one of empathy. Generally certainly one of frustration. Migraine is infamous for getting within the lifestyle and its plans, and your relationship is more likely to […]

  5. […] with migraine, we frequently spend a whole lot of time caring for our bodily well being. We go to medical […]

  6. […] symptoms. This will help you understand the condition better and how it affects your loved one. Migraine 101 from Migraine Meanderings is a great place to […]